3 Things To Know As USS Porter Enters The Black Sea

Information courtesy of U.S. Naval Forces Europe

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U.S. Naval Forces in Europe announced Oct.5  that USS Porter (DDG 78) will enter the Black Sea Tuesday to promote peace and stability in the region.

Here are three things you should know about this mission.

1) USS Porter is forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, and is an Arleigh-Burke-class guided missile-destroyer in the U.S. Navy. It was named after two U.S. Navy officers: Commodore David Porter, who saw service in the War of 1812, and his son Admiral David Dixon Porter, who served as the superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy after significant service in the Civil War.


2) The U.S. Navy routinely operates ships in the Black Sea consistent with international law. USS Porter is on a routine patrol conducting naval operations with allies and partners in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations.


3) This particular mission supports Operation Atlantic Resolve. OAR is a demonstration of our continued commitment to the collective security of NATO and dedication to the enduring peace and stability in the region, in light of the Russian intervention in Ukraine specifically. Continue reading “3 Things To Know As USS Porter Enters The Black Sea”

Celebrating Ukraine’s Military Heroes—Then and Now

Posted by: Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt

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Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt presented the US Distinguished Flying Cross for Colonel Mykhaylo Ivanovich Smil’skiy to Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defense Petro Mekhed (on Smil’skiy’s behalf)
Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt presented the US Distinguished Flying Cross for Colonel Mykhaylo Ivanovich Smil’skiy to Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defense Petro Mekhed (on Smil’skiy’s behalf)

Earlier this week, I had the honor of visiting Ukraine’s National Military History Museum to take part in a very special, and somewhat unusual, ceremony. I presented the US Distinguished Flying Cross for Colonel Mykhaylo Ivanovich Smil’skiy to Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defense Petro Mekhed (on Smil’skiy’s behalf). I was also thrilled that our departing Defense Attaché, Colonel Joe Hickox, who is retiring from his own distinguished career as an air force pilot, was able to take part in the ceremony. The Distinguished Flying Cross is in honor of Smil’skiy’s extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight in Eastern Europe—in 1944.

Though Colonel Smil’skiy was presented with a certificate during his lifetime, he never received the Distinguished Flying Cross itself. To correct this historic injustice, representatives of the United States and Ukraine came together on Tuesday to honor a man who had served on the frontlines of our shared fight for freedom and for liberty, who served proudly and heroically as the United States and the Soviet Union fought together to defeat Nazi Germany.

Distinguished Flying Cross
Distinguished Flying Cross

The Distinguished Flying Cross was created after World War I to recognize the courage, endurance, and gallantry of pilots. It is awarded to any officer or enlisted person of the Armed Forces of the United States who has distinguished him or herself in actual combat by heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight. During wartime, it may also be awarded to the members of the Armed Forces of friendly foreign nations serving with the United States. The medal itself deeply symbolic: the cross represents sacrifice, the propellers stand for flight, and the ribbon reflects the national colors of the United States.

Myhailo Ivanovych Smylskii was an extraordinary individual. Born in 1920 in Kyiv, by the end of World War II, he had flown approximately 200 combat flights. Smylskii was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, the Order of Lenin (twice), Order of the Red Banner (3 times), and the Order of Suvorov of 3rd degree.

flying-cross-3Smil’skiy’s accomplishments and courage are echoed by the service and sacrifice of those on the front lines in Ukraine today—by the heroism and valor of the brave Ukrainians fighting to secure Ukraine’s freedom for future generations. Just as we did in the 1940s, the United States stands with Ukraine, as a partner, as a friend, and as a country deeply vested in Ukraine’s future, just as we were when Mikhaylo Smil’skiy took bravely to the skies in his country’s defense some 70 years ago.

Three Years, Two Partner Nations, One Mission

Posted by: EUCOM

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By Master Sgt. Charles D. Larkin, USAF
United States European Command
Stuttgart, Germany, May 5, 2015

Three years ago, United States European Command (EUCOM) consolidated several military installations located throughout Europe. As installations closed and buildings were emptied, office furniture, computers, beds, and other furniture and equipment piled up in warehouses, like the one operated by the US-Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) in Italy.

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine speaks at an inauguration ceremony for the Vinnytsia Community Education Center

Thanks to the efforts of EUCOM and DSCA, some of those items were recently given a new home in Vinnytsia, Ukraine. Personnel from the U.S. Embassy to Ukraine, EUCOM officials, and members of local Ukrainian government and non-government organizations gathered at the brand-new Vinnytsia Community Education Center for an inauguration ceremony on April 27.

The project began in 2012 as a request from a local non-government organization. They wanted a resource center in their area to focus on public health and youth education for socially-vulnerable individuals. Additionally, the community center also addresses the problems of internal displaced persons (IDP) and human trafficking. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation — often referred to as a modern-day form of slavery — is a multi-billion dollar criminal activity in Ukraine. Trafficking of women and children for this type of exploitation is a serious problem affecting hundreds of thousands of victims and their families. Continue reading “Three Years, Two Partner Nations, One Mission”

Forest Fairytale: How the U.S. Military Transformed a Starychi Preschool

Posted by: Emma Hutchins, Public Affairs Intern and Major Sven Olson, Bilateral Affairs Officer

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U.S. Military European Command Transforms Starychi Preschool - Photo with Ambassador Tefft
U.S. Military European Command Transforms Starychi Preschool – Group Photo with Ambassador Tefft

While on an official visit to Moscow in 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama remarked, “[By] mobilizing and organizing and changing people’s hearts and minds, you then change the political landscape.” On July 17, the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv and Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC) translated President Obama’s wise words into action, as they celebrated the completion of a Humanitarian Assistance renovation project at a local school in the village of Starychi in the region of Lviv.

This summer’s project builds upon the success of the groundbreaking ceremony at Starychi’s Preschool last July, when the U.S. Military prepared for the upcoming renovations, and ROTC cadets and local Ukrainians worked on joint volunteer projects around the school. Since then, the European Command (EUCOM) Civic Engagement Branch Humanitarian Assistance Program has funded the installation of a new thermal façade, new windows, new entrance steps (including a terrace and canopy), indoor toilets, kitchenettes, and the renovation of six outdoor gazebos.  The EUCOM team also brought along a U.S. Embassy photographer, allowing us to capture and share the energy and emotion of the celebration.

U.S. Military European Command Transforms Starychi Preschool
U.S. Military European Command Transforms Starychi Preschool – ROTS Cadets Talk to Kids

When the school’s Director, Lubov Kmilyovska, expressed her gratitude, she referred to her newly renovated school as a “forest fairytale,” and the parents’ community noted that the facility had become a beautiful second home for their children. The completed project dramatically improves energy savings, the winterization of the preschool, and the safety and quality of life for children and teachers, as the persistent danger presented by falling stones from the old façade and deteriorating play areas has now been eliminated.

The Starychi Preschool was a particularly fitting location for a Humanitarian Assistance project, as the village maintains a strong relationship with the International Security and Peacekeeping Center (ISPC), and the school community is a close partner with the locally based Ukrainian military unit. In fact, the school’s ribbon-cutting ceremony was scheduled to coincide with Distinguished Visitor (DV) day at the multinational military exercise Rapid Trident 2013, which is based out of the ISPC. As a result of the concurrent scheduling, U.S. Ambassador John F. Tefft, Major General David Baldwin, ODC Chief LTC Tracey Rueschoff, and ODC staff all attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the beautifully transformed school. The juxtaposition of these two events highlights the many facets of military work, including international partnership, public diplomacy, and civilian stability.

U.S. Military European Command Transforms Starychi Preschool - Major General David Baldwin and Starychi Preschool Director, Lubov Kmilyovska
U.S. Military European Command Transforms Starychi Preschool – Major General David Baldwin and Preschool Director Lubov Kmilyovska

While regional contractors usually carry out these projects, the U.S. government also requires a significant amount of local collaboration to orchestrate these efforts. Many previous project locations – roughly 25 in the past decade – were suggested by USAID and its regional contractors, illustrating how a number of different players are involved in improving the quality of life across Ukraine. For many Military Humanitarian Assistance (MHA) projects, the United States’ commitment to the health, safety, and success of Ukraine’s students does not end after the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The U.S. Military is invested in the continuing success of local communities like Starychi, and recently provided a large shipment of school supplies to support Ukrainian students.

Beyond the new building and school supplies, the most rewarding result was the spirit of optimism that residents exuded in the aftermath of the project. The smiling faces of the Ambassador and other Distinguished Visitors, military leaders, ROTC cadets, teachers, parents, and most importantly the school’s students, spoke volumes about the U.S. Military’s commitment to giving back to communities and building global partnerships, even if only one “forest fairytale” preschool at a time.


John Paul Jones: American Cossack

Posted by: Emma Hutchins, Public Diplomacy Intern

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invitationHersonMany American students are familiar with the legendary U.S. Naval Officer John Paul Jones, whose daring bravery during the American Revolution has often captured the attention of textbooks and the imaginations of schoolchildren. However, beyond his role as one of the “Fathers of the United States Navy,” John Paul Jones was involved in a number of international naval battles, including the Battle of Liman, where he fought with the Russian Imperial Navy alongside Ukrainian Cossacks against an Ottoman fleet. On June 16-17, U.S. Ambassador John F. Tefft visited Ochakiv and Kherson, respectively, to commemorate the 225th anniversary of John Paul Jones’s induction into the Cossack Brotherhood after the battle.

U.S. Ambassador John F. Tefft visited Kherson to commemorate the 225th anniversary of John Paul Jones’s induction into the Cossack Brotherhood after the battle
U.S. Ambassador John F. Tefft visited Kherson to commemorate the 225th anniversary of John Paul Jones’s induction into the Cossack Brotherhood after the battle

Born the son of a gardener in Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland, John Paul was first apprenticed at sea on the Friendship when he was just thirteen years old. John Paul, who later added “Jones” to his name in the United States, quickly ascended through naval ranks by working on trade ships that conducted lucrative voyages to the West Indies. However, in light of growing rumors of war with Britain and after a series of personal controversies, Jones traveled to Philadelphia during the summer of 1775 to enlist himself with the U.S. Navy. Shortly after his enrollment, and with the additional support of the well-known Virginian statesman Richard Henry Lee, Jones began his U.S. naval career aboard the Albert.

U.S. Ambassador John F. Tefft visited Kherson to commemorate the 225th anniversary of John Paul Jones’s induction into the Cossack Brotherhood after the battle
U.S. Ambassador John F. Tefft visited Kherson to commemorate the 225th anniversary of John Paul Jones’s induction into the Cossack Brotherhood after the battle

John Paul Jones’s most often quoted moment came several years later, on September 23, 1779, while he was commanding a squadron that included the Bonhomme Richard, which Jones named after his good friend Benjamin Franklin’s penname, Poor Richard. Off the Yorkshire coast of England, Jones’s crew confronted a large convoy of British merchant ships accompanied by HMS Serapis and HMS Countess of Scarborough. Although Serapis attacked Bonhomme Richard so severely that her hull was holed and began to take on water, when British Captain Richard Pearson of Serapis asked if Bonhomme Richard was ready to surrender, Jones reportedly replied, “Surrender? I have not yet begun to fight!” By the end of the Battle of Flamborough Head it was Pearson who had surrendered, leaving Jones’s crew victorious in one of the most celebrated naval battles in U.S. history.

The 225th anniversary of John Paul Jones’s induction into the Cossack Brotherhood after the battle in Kherson
The 225th anniversary of John Paul Jones’s induction into the Cossack Brotherhood after the battle in Kherson

After his tenure with the U.S. Navy, Jones, like many other naval officers following the war, found himself unemployed as the United States turned its focus to internal politics instead of building up a Continental Navy. Feeling restless, Jones accepted an offer from Catherine the Great to serve in the Russian Imperial Navy, prompting him to adopt the name “Pavel Dzhones.” It was during his service under Catherine the Great that Jones got to know the Cossacks, a courageous people located mainly in Ukraine who continue to be a source of cultural pride for many Ukrainians. During the Battle of Liman in 1788, Jones’s bravery so impressed the Cossack fleet under Antin Holowatyj and Sydir Bilyj that Jones was awarded the rare privilege of being inducted into the Cossack Brotherhood.

The 225th anniversary of John Paul Jones’s induction into the Cossack Brotherhood after the battle in Kherson
The 225th anniversary of John Paul Jones’s induction into the Cossack Brotherhood after the battle in Kherson

Despite his victories, John Paul Jones attracted the resentment of other Russian naval officers, eventually leading Jones to retire to Paris for the remainder of his life. Over a century after his death in 1792, Jones’s remains were returned to the United States, where he was finally laid to rest at the United States Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis, Maryland. The elaborate circumstances surrounding Jones’s second burial – including a large naval procession across the Atlantic, a ceremony led by U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, and an ornate bronze and marble tomb – symbolize the United States’ recognition of John Paul Jones’s important contributions during the Revolutionary War and his legacy in shaping the character of the U.S. Navy.

The feeling of camaraderie and mutual respect between Jones and the Cossacks that developed during June 1788 is an early and powerful historical connection linking Ukraine with the United States.  As Ambassador Tefft emphasized in his speeches at Ochakiv and Kherson, he hopes that U.S.-Ukrainian relations will continue to mirror the same bonds shared between John Paul Jones and the Cossacks 225 years ago.

Energy Efficiency and National Security

Posted by: John Rogers, Political Fellow

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I recently spoke to a class at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv about energy efficiency and what steps the U.S. Military is taking to become more responsible stewards of our natural resources.

The 2010 U.S. National Security Strategy states: “Danger from climate change is real, urgent and severe.  The change wrought by a warming planet will lead to conflicts over refugees and resources; new suffering from drought and famine; catastrophic natural disasters; and the degradation of land across the globe.”  The Department of Defense (DoD) recognizes that, as the largest user of energy in the U.S. Government, they must take steps toward achieving higher levels of efficiency, improve infrastructure resilience and foster a culture of conservation and awareness.

When it comes to achieving higher energy efficiency, the military faces a set of unique challenges given the highly dynamic and often austere operating environment that characterize a modern battlefield.  This is particularly true in military aviation where, due to the current limits of technology and extreme danger during the mission, there is often limited room to balance efficiency against flight safety concerns and mission effectiveness.  Despite these challenges, the U.S. military has taken major steps toward improving efficiency without impacting mission success.

Solar-Panel-in-AfghanistanDoD construction projects near Boston, Massachusetts include new building designs that achieve the highest levels of EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) energy efficiency certification called ENERGY STAR.   Not only are these designs 35% more efficient than traditional commercial buildings, but they release 35% less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  On U.S. Military bases across the Southwest United States, large solar array fields are becoming commonplace and, in some cases, meet over 40% of the bases’ energy needs.  Efficiency has also found its way to the battlefield, where solar panel technology adapted for tents and backpacks is a familiar sight.  These rugged and

lightweight panels eliminate the need for ground forces to carry generators and fuel miles away from traditional supply routes, and allow soldiers to move further, faster and more quietly than before.  One final area where the military is embracing energy efficiency is new technology acquisition.  From rechargeabl
Improving the resilience of energy generation, storage and transportation systems is another critical step toward achieving greater overall system efficiency.  Resilience focuses on protecting our existing facilities, minimizing the impact from disruption and, in the event of attack, shortening the recovery time while reducing impact to the mission.  Part of strengthening resilience is increasing access to alternate supplies of energy. e radio batteries to more fuel efficient and versatile aircraft, new systems that capitalize on energy efficiency are becoming “force multipliers”, or factors that dramatically increases (hence, multiply) the effectiveness of an item or group.

Green Algae used in biofuel
Green Algae used in biofuel

A major energy initiative of the 21st century is the adaptation of biofuels for DoD use.  Biofuels, which are derived from sources such as green algae and non-food cooking oil blends, are a sustainable, clean-burning alternative to fossil fuels. The U.S. Navy showcased their “green fleet” initiative during a 2012 large-scale military exercise in the Pacific called RIMPAC.  During the exercise, over 200 aircraft and numerous ships utilized biofuel.  In 2012, the U.S. Air Force finished certification to fly all manned and unmanned aircraft on biofuel blends.  While biofuels are a demonstrated alternative to fossil fuels, the U.S. continues to explore more cost-effective and sustainable options.

Recent DoD campaigns and targeted education seminars have focused on establishing a culture of energy awareness and conservation at U.S. military bases.  These energy efficiency campaigns range from local level events to DoD-wide initiatives that recognize the strategic impact of smart conservation.  At the local level, bases are better managing waste by following the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidance of reduce, reuse and recycle.  This step is saving energy and money, while conserving our environment.

As U.S. President Barack Obama pointed out in his 2013 State of the Union Address, “Today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy.  After years of talking about it, we’re finally poised to control our own energy future.  We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years.  We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good American jobs to show for it.  We produce more natural gas than ever before – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it.  And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.”   DoD steps to improve energy efficiency, increase infrastructure resilience and foster a culture of conservation and awareness are having huge impacts across military installations worldwide.  As we look to the future, for the sake of our children and future generations, the world must come together and take steps to combat climate change.

As Ukraine continues to modernize, they must consider some of the energy efficiency steps taken by the DoD.  Not only are these initiatives conserving energy while saving money, they are working toward the global campaign of becoming more responsible stewards of our natural resources.